It is rare that I will listen to an album all the way through without using the skip button. Rarer still is an album I will want to play again immediately after it ends. But this is one of those albums. The dynamics, the atmosphere, textures, etc. all resonate with where my musical palette is right now.
This U.K. prog rock band The Pineapple Thief has been around since 1999 and is popular in Europe and Asia but has a smaller following here in the U.S. I’m betting that will change with this new album. Much like the recent output of Australia’s Teramaze, “It Leads To This” seamlessly and brilliantly bridges the gap between prog, indie rock, and sophisticated pop. Stylistically, this album provokes thoughts of Pure Reason Revolution and Anathema meeting Jars of Clay by way of Gazpacho and Radiohead. And lest anyone object, that is a great combination.
The band’s indie/alt-rock origins go back to 1999, when they started out with a similar approach to Radiohead and The Cure. But over time, their sound and style has morphed and evolved. In 2017, drummer extraordinaire Gavin Harrison (King Crimson, Porcupine Tree) came on board. At that point, their sound became lusher and more atmospheric – while at the same time, heavier and more assertive.
Guitarist / singer Bruce Soord leads the group and has been the main songwriter, while Gavin has become a co-writer after an initial stint as a hired gun. That means there is going to be some remarkably adept drumming on tap. Rounding out the band are bassist/backing vocalist Jon Sykes and keyboardist Steve Kitch. All are fantastic musicians. And with “It Leads To This,” they have created an outstanding work of artistic prog rock.
You may be disappointed though if you are expecting long “epic” songs or dizzying technical workouts. For one, 7 out of 8 songs here are under 6 minutes each. And the material is generally more focused on dynamics and atmosphere, anchored by a deep sense of groove and a melancholic pop sensibility. The heavier moments are there, but they serve the songs rather than fully anchor them. There is a sense of restraint underneath the surface. The first two singles “The Frost” and “Every Trace Of Us” are good representations of the rest of the album – Angular riffs and dissonant guitar chords will weave in and out of delicate atmospherics, some deep bass grooves, and very musical drumming, with Bruce’s magnificently melancholic vocals layered on top.
The Pineapple Thief seems to thrive on holding opposing forces in harmony with each other. Intensity and restraint. Technical precision and dreamlike spaciousness. Complexity and lean simplicity. Introspective vulnerability and authoritative confidence. Their songs are rich and complex, but do not come across as overly demanding.
One thing I noticed right away is that the production and sonics on the album are of an extremely high level. Bruce Soord is a producer and sound engineer, and it shows in his meticulous production values and the somber yet shimmering arrangements. The Pineapple Thief can say more in one resonating piano note or jarring guitar chord than some prog bands can say with an entire album of vertiginous noodling. You can tell that the band members have great technical skills, but they use them to serve a song and not to show off how proficient they are.
“It Leads To This” flows well from track to track. It is hard for me to pick favorites because I enjoy the album as a whole work – something I thought was a lost art.
I would say that “It Leads To This” is close in tone and style to their 2020 album “Versions Of The Truth” with its intricate rhythms and drum fills. But the songs flow better. They are more distinct, more rhythmically punchy and there is more vocal layering that really elevates the material.
To fully enjoy this album, it may help to be in the mood for a more introspective, intimate listen as opposed to something that wows you with technicality or brute force. I was hooked right away and can say with no hesitation that this is the most engaging new album I have heard so far this year. My one regret is that at 41 minutes long, the album is shorter than I would like it to be. I usually complain that albums are too long, but when this album is over, I find myself wishing for more.
Looking forward to more in the future.
Reviewer Rating: 9.25/10
“It Leads To This” track listing:
- Put It Right
- It Leads to This
- The Frost
- All That’s Left
- Now It’s Yours
- Every Trace of Us
- To Forget
- Bruce Soord / Vocals, guitars
- Gavin Harrison / Drums
- Jon Sykes / Bass
- Steve Kitch / Keyboards
“It Leads To This” will be available in a multitude of formats that are as follows:
- Limited Edition Deluxe 4 Disc set featuring:
- DISC 1: CD Album
- DISC 2: Bonus CD “Y Aqui Estamos” – Alternate Versions
- DISC 3: Blu-ray – “It Leads To This” and bonus album “Y Aqui Estamos” (reworkings of album session recordings): Dolby Atmos-DTS-HD MA 5.1-24/48 PCM Stereo mixes created by Bruce Soord
- DISC 4: DVD -: DTS 5.1-24/48 PCM Stereo
- 52-page book
- Limited edition brick red vinyl LP (exclusive to The Pineapple Thief and Kscope stores)
- Limited edition green vinyl LP (exclusive to worldwide independent record shops)
- Limited edition cream vinyl LP (exclusive to Germany & Austria)
- Blu Ray – Includes “It Leads To This” and bonus album “Y Aqui Estamos”. All in Hi-Res Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD 5.1, and stereo created by Bruce Soord
- Digital & Dolby Atmos